America Is the Deadliest Affluent Country for Children

While we are all trying to deal with the fact that 17 lives were lost yesterday in yet another school shooting, this might be the moment to remind you of something I wrote about a little over a month ago. According to research that was published recently in Health Affairs, “a child born in the United States has a 70 percent greater chance of dying before adulthood than kids born into other wealthy, democratic countries.” The researchers found three categories that contributed to this shameful record.

Between 2001 and 2010, researchers found that the risk of death in the United States was 76 percent higher for infants than in peer countries. In addition, the US has an infant death rate from extreme prematurity three times that of its peer countries.

…children between the ages of 15 and 19 are 82 times more likely to die from gun homicide in the United States than in peer countries.

US teenagers are twice as likely to die in car accidents than their peers abroad.

As I write this, the president is about to make a statement about the school shooting in Florida yesterday. We can count on the fact that he will make some remarks about the importance of keeping our children safe. That will be a lie. Trying to take health care away from millions of children and suggesting that the answer to incidents like the one yesterday is to turn our schools into war zones is the opposite of what it would take to improve this country’s abysmal record when it comes to keeping our children safe.

This morning Trump tweeted “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

But what would have happened if someone had reported this young man to the “authorities?” We learned today that he legally purchased an AR-15 a year ago, when he was 18 and still three years away from being able to buy alcohol legally. Added to that is the fact that a year ago Trump signed a bill that rolled back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun. To be clear about where the two parties stand on something like that, only two Republicans voted against that roll back, while 10 Democrats voted for it.

We’ll soon be hearing howls from the NRA and Republicans about how Democrats want to take everyone’s guns away. Speaker Ryan already went there.

If we apply that to this situation, what Ryan is saying is that he is OK with an 18 year-old who has mental health issues being able to legally purchase an AR-15, and that protecting that right is more important than the lives of our children. I’m sorry, but that is simply insane.

If we really cared about the safety of our children, here’s my wish list for common sense gun safety measures:

  • Fund CDC to study gun violence as a public health issue
  • Require background checks for every gun purchase
  • Pass Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban
  • Ensure that people with histories of mental illness and/or domestic violence are banned from purchasing guns
  • Spur investment in the research and production of smart guns

I am very well aware of the fact that the NRA has come out strongly against all of those and is believed to wield enough power to be able to stop them from happening. That’s why this tweet stood out to me last night:

It is time to vote for people who walk the talk when it comes to their promises to protect our children.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .